Regulation and functional significance of autophagy in respiratory cell biology and disease.
Respiratory Tract Diseases
Autophagy is a homeostatic process common to all eukaryotic cells that serves to degrade intracellular components. Among three classes of autophagy, macroautophagy is best understood, and is the subject of this Review. The function of autophagy is multifaceted, and includes removal of long-lived proteins and damaged or unneeded organelles, recycling of intracellular components for nutrients, and defense against pathogens. This process has been extensively studied in yeast, and understanding of its functional significance in human disease is also increasing. This Review explores the basic machinery and regulation of autophagy in mammalian systems, methods employed to measure autophagic activity, and then focuses on recent discoveries about the functional significance of autophagy in respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary arterial hypertension, acute lung injury, and lymphangioleiomyomatosis.